The Cebu Provincial Government is keen on recovering the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC) now that the criminal charges filed against Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, 10 other government officials and a private contractor was dismissed last December 14.
Governor Garcia, in a press conference Wednesday, January 6 stated that “COA (Commission on Audit) has already pointed out that that sale should never have happened because first of all, wala gyud to’y COA approval.”
“In our last meeting with COA, I believe they are now moving towards a Notice of Suspension or a Notice of Disallowance. Ang mahitabo ana, unless I act, ako’y manubag,” the governor disclosed.
“I am meeting with the Provincial Board and this is one of the agenda. I am thinking of forming a Technical Working Group (TWG) specifically to look into the CICC transaction which COA has deemed illegal and to now focus on the possible recovery of the CICC,” she added.
She underscored she has to heed the COA observation which never sanctioned the transaction.
“It’s in the audit report, ang CICC, amongst other things, including the lot swap, ma-disallow man gyud ni sa COA. My position here is to see to it that we go back to status quo ante, how we were before. Unless I do that, I’ll be accused of dereliction of duty. It’s my duty as governor to the Cebuanos,” Garcia said.
Status quo ante means “the previously existing state of affairs.”
“Naa ang structure, and we have a 25-year plus 25-year renewal usufruct agreement kay kanang yuta is owned by the City of Mandaue. Kadtong usufruct gi-balewala man to. Gi-terminate man to sa previous administrations – both Province and Mandaue. Unya gibaligya ang structure for P300 million. Mao nay naka-raise sa question sa COA kay they should have been given the chance nga maka-appraise sa structure itself and the beneficial use of the area in the next years - less than fifty years but more than thirty,” Garcia explained.
Catalyst for growth
Construction of the CICC in 2006 cost P850 million. It was the venue of the 12th Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and the 2nd East Asia Summit in 2007.
After that, it held various events such as exhibitions and the highly esteemed “Pasigarbo sa Sugbo” or the convergence of festivals of the 44 towns and six component cities of the Province.
However, the structure was damaged by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in October 2013 and Super Typhoon Yolanda in November of the same year.
“Nahibawo man mo nga pagbuhat nato anang CICC, mingaw kaayo na diha. It became a catalyst for growth in the North Reclamation Area kay human pagbutang, and with all the activities there – Pasigarbo sa Sugbo, OneCebu Expo, na-put up ang ParkMall,” Garcia said.
“Daghan nang nangita og hotel. I mean it is such a jewel unta, but they, for political purposes, chose to twist the entire story in order to make me appear as ‘corrupt,’ tanang butang-butang ug tanang panghimaraut which I can take it but naluoy kaayo ko sa akong pamilya kay giapil-apil pa. But God is just,” she elucidated.
The CICC, now dilapidated and vandalized, has turned into an evacuation site for around 2,000 families of Barangays Mantuyong and Guizo affected by a fire in 2016.
This was after the previous administration, led by then governor Hilario Davide III, sold the structure for P300 million to the Mandaue City Government in 2018 headed by then mayor Luigi Quisumbing.
In the presscon, Garcia recalled a man who shouted at them during a 2019 campaign sortie in Mandaue City on the present sorry state of the CICC sounding as if to blame her.
“Nakahinumdum ko while I was speaking, naay tawo nagtago didto sa ngitngit misinggit og ‘naunsa na nang CICC?’ O, naunsa na man nang CICC? Dili man ako’y nagpapuyo anang mga tawo diha. Dili man ako’y nagbaboy ana. Pero ako, labi na niining mga tawo nga wala’y nasabtan, magtan-aw ron sa present state sa CICC, abi nila ako’y hinungdan," she stressed.
What did the Province lose in the CICC sale?
According to Governor Garcia, the CICC has been a source of pride for the Cebuanos.
“It was a venue for national and international events, the first being the 12th ASEAN Summit in 2007 that hosted heads of states from 11 ASEAN countries,” she said.
The governor pointed out that it was already earning about P30 million a year for the Cebu Provincial Government. But when the Davide-Magpale administration took over, they neglected the structure because of their own political agenda, until it reached its current state of disrepair, and eventually, the Province losing money when CICC was sold for only around P300 million.
Garcia said the CICC helped put Cebu on the map as a MICE destination. MICE stands for Meetings, Incentive Travel, Conventions, and Exhibitions/Events. It represents specialized sectors of tourism which require higher standards of tourism services and facilities.
In the last six years alone, CICC could have raked in an estimated P180 million for the provincial coffers. And no matter the mud-slinging, it has always been a fact that CICC was cleared by the COA and the courts of any badges of corruption.
However, many groups continue to use it as part of their political propaganda against Garcia.
In a previous interview, Garcia stated that as an aftermath of the tremor, some parts of the structure were destroyed.
“Nangatangtang pila kabuok kay metal cladding man gud na. It should have been the responsibility of the Provincial Government to insure all assets. Pero gipasagdan kay naa kuno’y kaso. However, even the Deputy Ombudsman said that maskin pa naay kaso sa Ombudsman, pwede man na trabahuon but he (former governor Davide III) refused,” Garcia said.
“Ang kadtong wala kahibawo, nya dali kaayo makakomentaryo, dali kaayo mada sa ilang argument and that became part of the total political propaganda,” she expressed.
CICC used to be a source of communal pride, the governor added.
“Ig-agi nato diha, kanindot ana kaayo niadto. But now pwerte na gyung guba-a, mura na’g squatters area na diha,” she pointed out. (Eleanor Valeros)